By ANDREW STUCKEY
The Fort McMurray fire hit close to home last Tuesday.
Too close. In fact, it leveled it.
A Beacon Hill property I own was one of the first structures to go up in flames when fire ripped through the Oilsands city. The house was empty at the time and no one was hurt, so the loss was limited to the structure.
We’ll deal with the financial impact later. More important to us right now is catching up with friends who lived through the ordeal.
For much of last Tuesday evening, Tracey and I were on the phone to close friends we know living in Fort McMurray. Our purpose was to make sure they were safe.
Some we talked through the evacuation. They were trapped in traffic with a wall of flames at their backs and uncertain of what they were expected to do. Looking through social media sites dedicated to the fire, we were able to provide some answers.
In most cases, our friends escaped with the clothes on their backs and little else.
Others were trying to get to the city to help loved ones — usually adult children trying to escape the event.
It got me to thinking: how many of us would be ready to go with a few minutes notice if — or when — a wildfire or other emergency event hits our community?
Do you have a 72-hour emergency kit ready for your family? Are the important papers you need readily accessible if you need to find them in a hurry? Does your family have an emergency communication plan?
PreparedBC, advertised as British Columbia’s one-stop shop for disaster readiness information, has a number of resources available for households that want to better prepare themselves for an emergency event.
We’ve drawn some information from their pages to help you start a conversation with your family about surviving an emergency event.
In Osoyoos, the biggest disaster risk we face is wildfire. As the South Okanagan witnessed last year, the threat is real and immediate. Our hot, dry summer conditions means a wildfire could spread in the valley within minutes.
PreparedBC suggests each household take a number of steps to mitigate the impact of a potential disaster:
- Prepare Your Home
A household plan will help you cope with the stress of emergencies. Download a copy of the PreparedBC: Household Preparedness Guide (PDF) and the companion PreparedBC: Household Emergency Plan (PDF). Fill in the blanks and you’re on your way to a prepared household in 11 easy steps.
- Build an Emergency Kit
When disaster hits, there won’t be time to collect emergency supplies. Ensure you have emergency kits for your home, office and vehicle. They should all contain food, water and supplies for a minimum of 72 hours. PreparedBC offers a handy Basic Emergency Supply Kit card.
3. Meet Your Neighbours
When disaster strikes, we’re in it together. The most immediate help following a disaster will come from those directly around – your neighbours. Connecting with them today, and working together to prepare, will mean a better response and faster recovery.
Download a copy of the In it Together: Neighbourhood Preparedness Guide (PDF) and start the conversation today.
- Stay Informed
The Town of Osoyoos is small enough that emergency services team members can go door-to-door if an evacuation is ordered. It also posts information on its website and utilizes local media channels (radio, online news, etc.) to share information and updates.
As the Fort McMurray fire taught us, a lot of information is made available via Facebook, Twitter and other communication tools. Not all of it, however, is accurate. It’s important to seek out credible sources so you can make good decisions during a disaster.
Here are some of the provincial information channels available:
- @PreparedBC for preparedness information
- @EmergencyInfoBC and Emergency Info BC for alerts
- @BCGovFireInfo for wildfire updates
- BC Forest Fire Information (Facebook)
- @DriveBC and DriveBC.ca for road conditions
The Oliver fire last year should have taught the South Okanagan community that wildfire can and will happen with some regularity. By taking some precautionary steps now, you and your family can mitigate the impact such an event will have on your personal safety and your property.